By Binita Jaiswal
CUTTACK: To quench the thirst of elephants and other wild animals during summer, the forest department has dug 21 water bodies in Athagarh forest division at a cost of Rs 64.5 lakh.
Among these are 17 ponds, measuring 40mx30m, dug at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh each while Rs 5.5 lakh has been spend on digging four ponds measuring 50mx50m and 3 metres deep.
"We completed digging of ponds on a priority basis as the temperature has been rising over the past few days. The bigger ponds are meant for bathing of elephants," said divisional forest officer of Athagarh Arun Mishra.
Last year, forest officials had dug nine ponds, but most of these have dried up.
There are 131 elephants in the forest division and the water bodies will ensure that the animals do not venture into nearby villages.
"In the last one year, the forest department has paid Rs 72 lakh as compensation to villagers in the division for crop and property damaged by elephants. Hence, we are trying our best to create water and fodder facility inside the forest, so that the tendency of elephants to explore human inhabited areas becomes lesser," said the DFO.
Apart from elephants, the division is home to wild boars, deer, bears, peacocks, bats and different species of birds. The forest officials have also taken up bamboo and banyan plantations in the deep forest to create fodder for pachyderms.
Officials informed that regular inspection of water bodies is also being carried out.
"Our teams are keeping a watch on newly-dug water bodies, if any of them dries up then immediately we will dig some more. We want to ensure that elephants and other animals face no problem due to water scarcity," said a forest official.